Why Do You Live in Israel

Am Yisrael is supposed to place the yoke of the commandments upon ourselves. Our lives are not supposed to be centered around self-gratification; our lives are meant to be centered around service. We owe allegiance to Hashem and we are supposed to treat all elements of His Creation, including and especially other people, well, for no other reason than we have been assigned that obligation. Essentially, we’re guided to consider life, not in terms of what we can cull from our experiences, but in terms of what we can contribute to them.

Yet, repeatedly, we perceive growth as what we gain from our involvements. Too many social media posts that are provided by us new arrivals are filled with our quests for the “right” type of chocolate or biscuits or with our complaints about housing prices and availability.

What’s more, at times, we gild ourselves with reverse arrogance, claiming that our “most noble” thoughts, words, and deeds have added nothing to our personal evolutions. When we can’t detect external approval, we dismiss our efforts, and, instead, use appeals to pity.

Other times, we mistakenly think that we’ve lost out on the “treasures” of aliyah because of the makeup of our mental, written, or physical undertakings—we whine that, as tenderfoots, we can’t be expected to get the gist of our new culture and that by somewhat exerting ourselves, we’ve done enough. As such, we frequently call for the klita process to be broken down into minute steps and demand to be extolled for each phase that we’ve achieved.

Inversely, it is the case that we can ordinarily enhance ourselves by putting one foot in front of the other and “letting” The Boss determine the outcome of our toils. Whether we merit to notice our development is moot. Our job is to do good. If we, concurrently, feel good, then we’ve received a bonus.

Nonetheless, recurrently and unfortunately, there’s a lingering entitlement among folks who’ve immigrated not because of seeking asylum, but because of some “compelling virtue.” We regularly insist on being esteemed by locals, i.e., on being applauded for our willingness to give up creature comforts. We anticipate discounts on taxes, free tutoring, grants to defray housing costs, and more. We pursue awards, honor, recognition, and kindred regard while failing to realize that moving up to Eretz Yisrael is about us giving awards, honor, recognition, and kindred regard.

Hashem is due kavod. The people who came before us, both our Biblical ancestors and the pioneers of this modern state, are due respect. More exactly, if not for HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s graciousness and if not for our forerunners’ intense strivings, we’d have no home to which to return. Thinking otherwise is shortsightedness.

Furthermore, whereas we’re fortunate to live among lots of second and third generation Israelis, our status as “newcomers” is hardly unique. Roughly one of five contemporary Israelis are zero or first generation.

Additionally, the members of the Klal who warranted being born in this sanctified place paid and continue to pay for that privilege. Taxes can consume upwards of fifty per cent of one’s income. War can result in returning home in a body bag. It’s of small wonder that Jews born here are universally unimpressed by “growth opportunities” concomitant to being a neophyte.

Yet, simultaneously, given the extremes of dwelling in Hashem’s palace, those same “rough” sabras are extremely benevolent per our actual, basic needs. There are religious, social, and governmental safety nets that ward off greenhorns’ hunger, assist us with housing, and help us find work. Whereas the provided services are, time and again, not “luxurious” relative to kindred services provided by the nations from which we privileged olim emigrated, they get the job done.

Sure, as part of the Jewish People, we are authorized to live in Eretz Yisrael. On balance, there are no laws, Torah-based or otherwise, that dictate that more established Israelis have to make our transitions cushy. Rightfully, established residents ask what we olim can do for our nation. It’s us who have lost track of countless nuances of our people’s identity by living in the diaspora.

It’s us who have forgotten that our people’s aim is to yield succor, not to glom spoils. We who inhabit this holy place must redeploy ourselves to grasp mitzvot rather than to clench personal superlatives. Selfies and trinkets are the stuff of tourists, not of Israel’s denizens. We ought to busy ourselves with providing goods and services, not with going after them. Life does not spin on our jamming more and more into our respective sacks but on our sharing items from within.

Consequently, it’s unrealistic to hope that the more settled Israelis will fabricate literal or figurative parades when we arrive. Preferably, we ought to assume that they will help us put down roots while waiting for us to contribute to our shared  society.

About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.
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